EU antitrust chief: Google case continues, despite concessions

Europe's antitrust chief doesn't seen an end in sight to the Google palaver, which could see the search giant face massive fines at the end of an already-lengthy antitrust investigation.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

European regulators could charge Google with breaching EU antitrust and competition law if the search giant does not appease regulators with satisfactory concessions.

European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a speech at Fordham University in New York, that Google could face "formal proceedings" if the company does not offer a series of adequate solutions to Europe's concerns that it is abusing its monopoly in the region. 

As quoted by Reuters, Almunia said that were "effective solutions" found quickly and successfully enacted, then competition across Europe "could be restored at an early stage by means of a commitment decision," implying that Google could promise to alter its business practices on the continent.

"However, we are not there yet, and it must be clear that -- in the absence of satisfactory proposals in the short term -- I will be obliged to continue with our formal proceedings," he added. 

Any company found in breach of European antitrust laws could face a maximum fine of up to 10 percent of their global turnover. In Google's case, this could amount to €2.9 billion ($3.8 bn) based on 2011 global revenue.

In such cases as these, altering how a business operates is often more damaging to the company in question than the massive fines that Google faces.

Google is accused of pushing out rival search engines and services by abusing its monopoly in the European Union. The four areas of concern were noted in a letter by Almunia to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt earlier this year.

The company offered to settle the probe, which may mean that Google ultimately admits guilt but in return avoids a potentially huge fine.  

The search giant was also told to extend its concessions offering to account for mobile services also, according to reports. EU regulators were apparently ready to ease up on the company if it showed "willingness" to extend the scope of its alleged anti-competitive strategy to its mobile sector.

The case continues until Google appeases the European regulators enough, or a formal "statement of objections" is handed to the company, which could then result in serious ramifications for the U.S. firm.

A Google spokesperson told ZDNet that Google continue to negotiate the settlement offer, but declined to give a statement at this time.

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